Fri, 13 Dec 2019

"In 1994 we voted for Nelson Mandela, then for Thabo Mbeki, then again for Jacob Zuma. But nothing has changed," sighed Aubrey Kutlawano after attending an election rally by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Aged 42, Kutlawano has no job and lives in a single room with three other people, including his disabled sister.

"They are just greedy people working for themselves," he declares of the ANC.

After decades fighting apartheid and its entrenched discrimination, the ANC came to power 25 years ago promising "A better life for all" - housing, services, education and jobs for black people denied equal opportunities under decades of apartheid.

"This time I'm just not going to vote," said Kutlawano, disillusioned.

Around him, the stadium in Johannesburg's Alexandra township emptied swiftly. Ramaphosa's closing words had barely died down before he was hustled to a limousine by bodyguards.

Near the barriers erected between potential voters and the political class, kids jostled to grab a T-shirt in the black, yellow and green colours of the ANC.

For weeks, Ramaphosa has attended rallies to persuade an electorate of 27 million to back the ANC once more in May 8 general elections.

The party holds 249 or 62% of the 400 seats in Parliament, its poorest showing in five successive elections. At its height in 2004, the ANC got nearly 70% of the vote.

Polls suggest it will dip to an unprecedented low of 61% in parliamentary vote - still far ahead of its nearest competitor, the opposition DA which holds less than a quarter of the seats.

Don't turn Alex protests into a political football

Before Alexandra, Ramaphosa had travelled about 300km south to Thabong township in the mining town of Welkom, where he promised new houses, laptop computers and "a better life" overall.

"We must respond to the pain and the suffering of our people here," he told the rally, punctuating his speech with shouts of "Amandla!" as in the time of revolutionary struggle.

Those present had familiar concerns.

"Since we are in a democracy, nothing has really changed. We're still living here in [an] informal settlement, struggling to get basic services," said Tau Mphasa, 54.

Yet, hope remains. "I think Cyril is the one. But it's their last chance. If he doesn't deliver, next time I will go elsewhere."

Jacob Mpho, 34, also thinks Ramaphosa "is a good guy".

"I'm going to vote for ANC again because I trust him. But I'm crying every day."

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